Berlin (Dec. 9)
Dr. Bernhard Kahn, the European Director of the Joint Distribution Committee of America and a member of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, who has just returned here from his recent stay in America, received Jewish pressmen to-day at the European headquarters of the Joint Distribution Committee, and he, and also Dr. Joseph Rosen, the head of the Agrojoint in Russia, who came back with him from the United States, explained how the position stands now in America with regard to the raising of funds for Jewish constructive work in Eastern Europe and in Palestine.
My journey to America was not a journey for money Dr. Kahn said, but for maintaining the vital contact between the Jewish constructive forces in Europe and the Jewish leaders in America, and to provide a direct means of information, It is very difficult to rouse any interest in America now in East European affairs. The economic depression in America itself is so acute that people are very little disposed to listen to what is said about the depression in Europe, and in general they will not see the need for sending money. Nevertheless, the big American press like the “New York Times” published long articles about the constructive Jewish work in Eastern Europe. American Jewry understands that the constructive work in the East of Europe must not be allowed to collapse, but at the moment American Jewry is not in a position to help itself. All sections of American Jewry have suffered greatly from the crisis, and poverty has made rapid strides. I am assured that in some Jewish quarters in New York, Philadelphia and other towns, the want has become so acute that we really can say now that there are people there actually starving.
In spite of that, he went on, Dr. Joseph Rosen and I succeeded in stemming those tendencies which are based on the slogan – “Enough of help for Europe”. The vital connection between American and European Jewry has been maintained. Everything possible will be done for constructive work like that of the Foundation, but scarcely anything will remain over for purely philanthropic and cultural purposes.
SHOULD NOT BE IMAGINED RETURNING STABILITY IN AMERICA WILL BE ANYTHING LIKE OLD PROSPERITY: AMERICAN JEWRY FACED BY DANGER OF COLLAPSE OF ITS OWN RELIGIOUS CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
Not until the situation is stabilised will it be possible to rouse interest again in other things. Nor should it be imagined that the returning stability will be anything like the old prosperity. This dream is doomed to disappointment. It is time to bury the legend of the rich uncle in America.
But it will be easier when stability has returned to maintain the vital connection between the Jews of the old and the new worlds. At present American Jewry is faced by the danger of a collapse of their own religious, cultural and educational organisations. It is obvious that this danger is much closer to them than the same thing in Eastern Europe. On top of this, we must remember that they are collecting money in America now to help to maintain seven million unemployed over the winter. The collections are public and no Jew who is able to give anything at all can abstain. Collections for purposes outside the country cannot nowadays be carried through with the same amount of publicity.
OUR STAY IN AMERICA WAS A VERY UNPLEASANT EXPERIENCE THOUGH WE OURSELVES WERE GIVEN VERY WARM RECEPTION: AMERICA HAS WARM UNDERSTANDING FOR NEEDS OF PALESTINE BUT UNDER PRESENT CONDITIONS DIFFICULT TO EXTEND EXISTING JEWISH AGENCY CIRCLES AND RESULTS OF PALESTINE COLLECTIONS THEREFORE VERY UNSATISFACTORY
Turning to speak of the collections in America for the Palestine funds, Dr. Bernhard Kaha said that under present conditions it is difficult to extend the existing Jewish Agency circles in America, and consequently the results of the collections are very unsatisfactory. The Palestine drive, he said, brought in 745,000 dollars, including 200,000 dollars from the Hadassah.
There is a warm understanding in America for the needs of Palestine, Dr. Kahn said, but it was not possible to achieve any greater success.
The Jewish Agency leaders in Europe, he urged, must reckon with this fact, and take counsel what should be done under the circumstances to intensify the will to Palestine work.
My stay in America, Dr. Bernhard Kahn concluded, was a very unpleasant experience, though Dr. Rosen and I personally received a very warm reception.
We bring this consolation, however, he said, that we have succeeded in achieving one thing- the bridge between Jewry in the old world and the new remains standing, so that when the opportunity again offers the joint work can be resumed.
Dr. Bernhard Kahn added that American Jewry has a lively and warm understanding for the present dangerous position of the Jews in Germany and in Poland, and that the reports which are arriving there concerning the situation are being followed with keen interest.